Florida Forced to Redraw Congressional Districts

Gerrymandering – manipulation of electoral boundaries to create an advantage for an incumbent, political party and/or class – has existed in the United States for more than 200 years. By redrawing voting districts, a political party can pack “unfriendly” voters into districts the opposition will already win and reduce the number of “unfriendly” voters in districts the party wishes to win. The impact of gerrymandering on the electoral process has led to reforms, which determined gerrymanderers (is that a word? You catch my drift) attempt to circumvent or outright defeat, resulting in further reform measures.

Florida is a good recent example of gerrymandering-reform-gerrymandering- reform. Decades-old gerrymandering of legislative and congressional districts led to Floridians’ November 2, 2010 approval of Florida Constitutional Amendments 5 and 6 (called “Fair Districts” Amendments) by 63% of the vote. The Fair Districts Amendments were designed to ensure an open, transparent and fair redrawing of Florida’s voting districts.

Some Florida politicians determined to retain or strengthen advantages circumvented the reform. According to a suit brought by plaintiffs including The League of Women Voters, some legislators: made a show of following the Fair Districts Amendments by announcing public hearings and requesting public comment; presented no maps and made no comments until the public hearings ended; actually used political operatives and consultants to organize and write scripts for selected people to attend public hearings, push for certain components and characteristics in district maps, and submit maps or partial maps favoring their party; finally unveiled the new maps for Congressional Districts, State House and Senate Districts at their last committee meetings of 2011 and passed the new maps at the end of January 2012; destroyed nearly all their e-mails and other papers associated with redistricting, and had their political operatives do the same. The result, according to the Plaintiffs, was a perverted process resulting in maps giving undue advantages to the GOP.

In July 2014, a Circuit Court judge agreed with plaintiffs regarding Districts 5 and 10, stating that some Republican legislators and operatives “made a mockery of the Legislature’s transparent and open process of redistricting,” even as they went “to great lengths to conceal from the public their plan and their participation in it.” Later that same month, the judge ordered the legislature to redraw those 2 Districts by August 15, 2014 and he will order a special election later in 2014 for those new Districts and others affected. While the judge’s ruling is tough regarding those 2 Districts, some believe the rulings affect too few Districts, as the gerrymandering drew illogical, twisting districts through as many as 8 Florida counties.

By Kathy Catanzarite

Source: Kathy Catanzarite – Staff Writer

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